Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book #301: Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

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The first day the lion wandered into the library everyone was quite alarmed. But when Miss Merriweather, the librarian, found out she said that if he wasn’t breaking any rules they should just let the lion be. The lion loved the entire library, but he loved story hour the best. Everyday he would arrive a few hours early for story hour and he would help Miss Merriweather dust the encyclopedias and lick envelopes. Then at three o’clock he would curl up in the story corner and wait for story hour to begin. Soon everyone in the library became very fond of the lion. Except for Mr. McBee, who thought that the library was no place for lions. One day Miss Merriweather fell while reaching for a book, so she sent the lion to find Mr. McBee. Unfortunately the lion couldn’t get Mr. McBee to understand and he roared in frustration. Mr. McBee ran off to tell Miss Merriweather of the lion’s behavior, but the lion already knew he broke the rules and he sadly left the library. The next day Miss Merriweather returned to work with her broken arm in a sling, but the lion did not. And he didn’t come back the next day or the day after that. Not even for story hour. In the end, it is Mr. McBee, who cannot stand to see Miss Merriweather so sad, who finds the lion and tells him about the new library rule, “No roaring allowed, unless you have a very good reason – say, if you’re trying to help a friend who’s been hurt, for example.”

The text of this story that celebrates the welcoming atmosphere of libraries combines description and dialogue to form a narrative that is plain, but captivating. Words are chosen carefully and no element is included without a purpose. For instance, the theme of following the rules is used as a plot point, as well as a recurring joke. The acrylic and pencil illustrations use soft colors and edges to create a cozy environment. The lion is realistically drawn, yet he has anthropomorphic facial expressions that communicate his love for the library and the people in the library. It’s also lovely to see library patrons of many different skin and hair colors.

Read this story as part of a storytime on libraries and books. Try pairing it with titles like Library Lil, Miss Rumphius or Will You Read to Me? Try a few poems from Book Speak!: Poems about Books. This is a great time to talk about the different jobs people do in libraries. Take the kids on a tour of the library to find the encyclopedias and circulation desk.

Naturally, it’s great fun to read this story at storytime because kids love to see things they do depicted in books. Have kids roar along with the lion when you get to the roaring parts of the story. If you have a stuffed lion toy bring it in and encourage kids to pick out stories to read to the lion. 

Check out the story hour guide from Candlewick and the reader’s guide from Oregon Reads for discussion questions, activities, and other resources.

Follow up with rhymes such as Guess Who?, I’m a Lion, We’re Going on a Lion Hunt or play the classic song, The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

And then craft some lions of your own. Try paper plate and paper bag lion puppets, hand print lions or tissue paper lions.


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